3 Frightening Facts of Being Obese (And What It Means in Plain Language)

by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.
being obese

Photo Credit: flicker

Obesity is on the rise.

The term obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or over. Being obese will drag the human body, mind and spirit down into an abyss of health issues ranging from daily aches and pains to stroke, disease and death.

A 33-year-long study, published in the Lancet medical journal, found that about 2.1 billion people – 30% of the planet – are overweight or obese.

Appropriately named as the Global Burden of Disease Study, it concluded that 67% of men and 57% of women are either overweight or obese in the UK alone. The stats on obese and overweight children clock in at roughly 27%.

Even many doctors, nurses and medical staff are obese! 700,000 UK medical staff were told to “lose weight for patients’ sake.”

If nurses and doctors are obese themselves, is there any hope?..

The general health horrors of obesity

There are health dangers associated with being overweight and obese. Maybe you have read or heard about them.

They’re packaged into categories like heart disease, diabetes, respiratory problems, cancer, skin infections, sleep apnea and infertility, to name a few of the major ones. Fatty liver disease (non alcoholic), osteoarthritis and psychological/social problems fill another bucket of woes related to being obese.

What about the real life stuff, deep inside those health horrors of obesity? If you are obese or have a client who is literally weighed down with this condition, maybe it’s time to consider what it really means, in plain language.

1. Activities of daily living might become a burden to your body

Activities of daily living (ADLs) are defined as the things we normally do – such as feeding ourselves, bathing, dressing, grooming, work, homemaking, and leisure. They are part of our self-care tasks and fundamental to functioning in the world.

ADLs can also branch out into using the stairs, playing with the kids, walking to the bus stop, shopping, housework, getting dressed, gardening, and just plain moving around in the world.

When you are obese, these daily ‘normal’ activities can be a burden on your body. You are more susceptible to falls, injury and disability.

“Being heavy changes your physical experience of the world,” says researcher Krista Scott-Dixon. It is just harder to move when you have excess weight on your body.

She explains how difficult it can to comprehend the dangerous cycle of inertia that heavy people inhabit if you’ve never had that physical discomfort.

2. You might leak from both ends

A heavy belly and a big body will push foods back up. It’s called gastroesophageal reflux. It’s also known as GERD or heartburn.

This is actually quite common in obese people. Food and stomach acid can wash back up into the oesophagus, causing a burning sensation. That’s leakage going in.

A heavy belly pressing against the bladder presents another concern at the other end involving urination. It’s called urinary incontinence and obese women can have several of these episodes a week. Besides pushing urine out without your consent, it may also make someone more vulnerable to other lower urinary tract symptoms.

3. You’re setting yourself up to possibly die younger

Obesity is killing people early and often.

It is estimated that up to 400,000 deaths a year in the EU are caused by overweight-related illnesses. That is almost the same number of people who die each year from breast cancer.

Coronary artery disease, diabetes and cancer are three of the bigger health risks associated with being obese. Excess weight will invariably erode on the very life supporting systems we depend on daily to function in the world.

These large scale complications can impact one’s future, decreasing the quality and length of life.

In closing (and saving one’s life)

The need to lose weight for an obese person is not for cosmetic reasons. In plain language, it is to save one’s life. The frightening reality of being obese is that every day can be a struggle.

It may not seem like an easy road ahead. Working full-time, family, pressures of time management and general stress can all seem to get in the way of succeeding in a weight loss plan.

Besides physical health problems complicating life, there’s the erosion of self-confidence, self-esteem, willpower and determination. Emotional and mental stress can be another ‘weight’ to bear.

The really good news is that you can do this – on your own or with a weight loss expert. It really is worth turning your ship around to literally save your life.

It has been suggested in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity that if individuals fully internalise weight loss-related behavioural goals, and feel not just competent but also autonomous about reaching them, their efforts are more likely to result in long-lasting behaviour change.

The hardest part may be starting. The best way is to start slow and continue at that pace. Making new healthy lifestyle changes takes time.

Think about the real life stuff  in your life and what really matters. This is well worth a look to turn a really good life around for the better.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below if you have ever struggled with more weight than you like. And if you know someone who could really use a boost, please share this with them!

Every other Thursday we share our research and actionable advice to help you and those you care about. If you enjoyed this, join our FREE updates.


  • susan, nutrition coach

    Reply Reply August 21, 2014

    I think we can now say that there is an obesity epidemic. I recently spoke to a local GP who said they have increased the number of oversized chairs in their waiting rooms because the larger patients struggle to sit in the others comfortably.
    In UK 62% of adults and 28% of children are either overweight or obese, now that really is a frightening statistic. As a nutrition coach I have a number of clients that fit in to that category and like all my clients I encourage them to make ‘small but permanent’ changes to their lifestyle.

    • Alex

      Reply Reply August 21, 2014

      Susan, what your local GP mentioned is another sign that we’re “normalising” obesity in our society… Thanks for sharing :-)

  • susan, nutrition coach

    Reply Reply August 21, 2014

    Exactly Alex. its addressing the knock on effects not the root cause

  • Cheryl

    Reply Reply September 30, 2014

    I lost 20lb’s by eating healthy protein, fruit’s & vegetables five day’s a week. Saturday or Sunday I treat myself to something special a meal or food I have a craving for, this seems to work then on Monday I start eating healthy. I’ve had my reward for being good for the past week.

  • Lori Ann

    Reply Reply October 11, 2014

    What a great success you have had. 20lbs down is a great accomplishment. I am wondering what you have noticed about the cravings you have had – the ones you treat yourself to on weekends. I am thinking that you are having less and less of the ones that are not so good for you. I used to be addicted to sugar. I removed it from my diet… all of it. Introduced more natural sweeteners and can always get my sweet fix without compromising my weight.

  • Alexandria

    Reply Reply October 14, 2014

    I am working on losing about 25 lbs. I think that I will be able to get some great ideas here!

  • Shelley

    Reply Reply March 13, 2015

    Love all the great info you get on this course. I am an NLP Life Coach and have had lots of success with helping clients to help themselves and to lose weight. One client has lost 14 stone with the power of coaching and changing the way she thinks and feels, so much so that her depression issue has decreased considerably. Love my job!

  • Lori

    Reply Reply March 24, 2015

    There was once (11 years ago) when I was 300 lbs. That seems so long ago. I’m an RN these days, so before I go to work, it’s my “me” time – at 3am – and with several races this year on my calendar, that’s when I can do my training runs. Today, I can squeeze in 8 miles in an hour, 4 in a half hour, and I’m the Health Embassador at work. It’s time to pay it forward, for my child, my husband, my patients, and friends. Trust me. If I can get from a USA pant size 26 to size 2 and be a 44 year old “elite” runner, lifter, athlete, we all can do this.

  • Sharon

    Reply Reply April 2, 2015

    I am very new here having just started yesterday. I have a long way to go and I’m hoping I learn new strategies to finally do this the right way. I am older than most here, and I look forward to meeting you all.

    • Lori

      Reply Reply April 3, 2015

      Welcome aboard, Sharon!

  • susan, nutrition coach

    Reply Reply April 3, 2015

    Welcome Sharon. You will get some great tips and advice either from people who have been there and done it or people who advise clients how to do it, like me!

    Ask away :0)

  • Renaye

    Reply Reply May 7, 2015

    Thank you all for sharing. I am 59 years old. I was a size 3 in Juniors in 2013. My husband had open heart surgery coded and was resuscitated. Six weeks in hospital and two months of rehab. I had my brother committed during this time for PTSD. I went from 118 to 127 lbs. Now a year later, facing upper and lower back surgery I am weighing 157 (the heaviest in my life). I am in so much pain and am unable to do most of the things I use to do like gardening and dancing. I am taking this course hoping to get some inspiration to lose some weight before surgery. Any suggestions for weight lose would be greatly appreciated.

    To those of you that have lost incredible weight I commend you, keep up the good work. To those of you just starting, keep the faith.

    • Hi Renaye, thanks for sharing your story! The Advanced Clinical Weight Loss Practitioner course will help you enormously because of the personalisation it brings, what works for others may not work for you (or vice versa). Please let us know how you get on with your new discoveries and weight loss journey. Motivational tip: record your weight and body measurement statistics before your journey so you can compare after (just for yourself). Good luck and most of all, enjoy your journey!

  • Kathryn

    Reply Reply November 10, 2015

    Hi Sharon I also joined yesterday I’m 58 so another mature aged student. I’m 112kg in lbs I think its 246lbs. I’m on this journey to heal my self & to encourage others to heal themselves as well. Mine is stress & lack of movement. I have been told I need a double knee replacement. My guides keep telling me no. Cartlidges can re grow. Hydration is also very important.

  • Ann Buongiorno

    Reply Reply May 25, 2016

    I always am healh concious about my BMI, I watch ehat I eat, learning everyday how I can feel better about myself, in clothes I dont have any problems as to what is healthy right now in my life, I know what foods prevent illnesses, and how to avoid them, I am careful of all the labels, and ingredients in all such products, I am a Sales Event Specialist, and I have to know what is in all foods, as to hand out samples to customers, we promote, mostly Healty Events to the Public, and we give out important info on all our events as possible.

  • Chinenye

    Reply Reply August 28, 2016

    I am new as here and I run a nutrition shop and part of what we do is making fresh natural juice and smoothies without sugar and preservatives. One of the consumables you asked us to drop is natural juice. I will like to get this clear. What is wrong with that? Does this mean that this aspect of my business is not helping people live healthier? Thank you.

    • Welcome, Chinenye! We love to hear you run a nutrition shop with fresh juices and smoothies, that’s fantastic :-) There’s nothing wrong with natural juices and smoothies. They can provide potent health benefits, smoothies in particular, given that the fibre in the allows for the sugars to be more slowly absorbed into the bloodstream (good for those who need to keep an eye on their blood sugar management). Also, the fibre in them encapsulates the phytochemicals, protecting them from stomach acid, so more of them are absorbed into the bloodstream from the intestines. The one thing consumers need to be made aware of is the amount of total “free sugars” they consume per day. Although homemade smoothies and fresh juices may not have “added” sugars, they do have natural “free sugars”, which still count towards the recommended intake limit. Basically, “free sugars” are sugars that have been added to food PLUS those naturally present in honey, syrup, and unsweetened fruit juices. The UK’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommends that “free sugars” should be no more than 5% of your daily calories. You can find the complete “free sugars” guidelines here: https://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/health-tips/added-sugar/ Luckily, in nutrition science there’s no black and white. It’s all about personalising things for each person, and enjoying a daily smoothie is something we highly recommend in our Detox Specialist course (you can see the full curriculum here: https://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/detox-specialist-diploma-cpd-accredited-online-course/). Several of our learners run their juicing/smoothie companies like you, spreading the goodness to others :-) I hope that helps and can’t wait to hear more from you! Enjoy

  • Sandra Esquivel

    Reply Reply September 29, 2016

    Si me preocupo de mi peso, porque me he dado cuenta que actualmente me estreso más y esto hace que suba con mayor facilidad de peso, en dos ocasiones acudí con una Nutrióloga, y la primer vez me dio medicamento y cuando terminé tratamiento vino el rebote, la segunda ocasión una dosis inferior y estoy volviendo a aumentar de peso a 6 meses de haber concluido el tratamiento. NO es saludable el medicamento estoy consciente de ello y deseo aprender a hacerlo con solo la alimentación y el control del estress pero necesito ayuda para poder ayudar a mis semejantes y que mi estudios para la carrera de Nutrición sea más fructífera si veo resultados desde antes de comenzar/retomar mis estudios.

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